If you’re a regular reader of The Health Sessions, you might have noticed that I love ideas on how you can make it easier to put healthy and comforting meals on the table when you struggle with limited energy and mobility. From using a slow cooker and putting sheet pan dinners in the oven to prepping freezer meals for sick days, there are several ways you can save energy while cooking.
However, many of my go-to strategies that require less effort often do require a long time in the oven/crockpot, or some planning ahead and meal prepping in return. But sometimes, after a long and tiring day, you just want a bowl of food now, and not wait another 30 or 45 minutes before dinner’s ready.
What can you do to quickly whip up a meal that’s still healthy and satisfying? Something that ideally doesn’t require a massive amount of chopping or cleaning up afterwards?
First of all, when available and affordable, buying pre-cut vegetables, sliced proteins or fresh pasta helps to speed up the cooking process. You don’t have to splurge on these foods for every dinner, you can save this luxury for those occasions when you know you’ll be too tired for much cooking – like after a long day in the hospital for example.
The right equipment will also make it easier to whip up a quick meal. A wok enables you to prep a stir-fry in no time, while a large skillet comes in handy for one-pot dinners that’ll save you a load of dishwashing.
And finally, remember you don’t have to pack all the superfoods, nutrients and toppings into one dinner. It’s ok if some nights you have a very simple meal, and your bowl doesn’t look Pinterest-worthy.
With that in mind, here are 18 healthy and quick dinner ideas for tiring days.
Stir-frying is everyone’s go-to quick dinner strategy for a reason. It’s easy, healthy and fast – thanks to the hight temperatures of the wok, you can often make a stir-fry in less than 15 minutes. Having pre-cut vegetables, sliced meat or leftovers from the day before saves you a lot of time and energy. Also choose ingredients that require little cooking time, like mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, strips of chicken and beef, and noodles of course.
You can wok any combination of (plant-based) protein, vegetables and carbs, plus an easy spice mix or sauce, but here are some healthy and quick stir-fry recipes for more inspiration:
Spicy Tahini Tofu Stir Fry from Eat Well 101
One Skillet Cashew Chicken Stir-Fry from Eat Yourself Skinny
15-Minute Lemon Garlic Butter Steak with Zucchini Noodles from Eat Well 101
Eggs are budget-friendly and versatile proteins that make a tasty meal any time of day, including a quick dinner. Eggs provide you with high-quality protein, healthy fats, vitamin D and nutrients that supports good vision and brain health. What’s more, omelettes, frittatas or shakshuka are a delicious vehicle for getting more greens, fresh herbs and spices in.
If you want something a little more nourishing than the standard fried eggs on toast, give these quick recipes a try.
Mushroom-Spinach Scrambled Eggs from Skinnytaste
15-Minute Arugula & Tomato Frittata from Walder Wellness
Easy Shakshuka from Cook at Home Mom
3. Baked Potatoes
I know carbs have gotten a bad reputation over the past few years. But in a pure form – unpeeled and not fried – the humble potato is still a great source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and antioxidants. Plus, there’s something about a baked potato that’s comforting and filling.
Now baked potatoes will take a long time to cook in the oven or wrapped in foil on the grill, but according to The Kitchn, you can have a single potato ready in 5 minutes when using a microwave. So check out their instructions and finish off your soft and steaming (sweet) potato with one of the following healthy toppings:
Loaded Baked Potato from A Couple Cooks
Fall Harvest Salad Stuffed Sweet Potatoes from Love & Lemons
BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes from Downshiftology
4. Pita Pockets
If you have a toaster, pita pockets are a great choice for a quick dinner after a tiring day. Just pop your breads in the toaster for a few minutes, slice them open en fill them with the proteins and vegetables of your choice. You could heat up some store-bought falafel balls and hummus while grilling zucchini, or even simply fill your pita with canned tuna and cheese and have a simple salad on the side.
For more ideas on how to stuff your pita pockets, check out these quick recipes:
10-Minute Veggie Greek Pita Sandwiches from Fork in the Kitchen
Tuna and Chickpea Pita Sandwiches from Cooking Classy
Portobello Mushroom Gyros from Live Eat Learn
5. Quick Pasta
Isn’t a bowl of pasta the ultimate comfort food after a long day? Of course it’s always a good plan to have some good quality tomato sauce (low in salt and sugar) and wholegrain/lentil pasta in the pantry so you can whip up a meal in no time. But fresh pasta like tortellini or gnocchi also make a quick dinner for nights when you’re not really inspired to cook.
Take a look at 3 pasta recipes that can be made in twenty minutes or less, and mostly in one skillet too:
Pesto Chicken Tortellini and Veggies from Julie’s Album
Quick Gnocchi with Cabbage and Walnuts from Krumpli
Lemon Broccoli Pasta (One Pot, 20 Minutes) from The Food Charlatan
6. Mexican-inspired Meals
Want to enjoy Taco Tuesdays, even on days when you have little energy to cook? With a little planning and choosing the right ingredients, you can whip up a Mexican-inspired meal in 15 to 20 minutes. So spice up your weeknights with these load nachos, quesadillas and tacos!
Loaded Paleo Nachos from Paleo Running Mama
Apricot Salsa Quesadillas from Top with Cinnamon
Smoky Beans & Greens Tacos with Aji Verde from Pinch of Yum
Let’s make this list even longer: what’s you go-to quick dinner after a long and tiring day?
For more energy-saving tips and tricks, learn the secret tool to healthy eating with chronic illness, even more strategies to effortlessly make a meal when you are tired, plus 9 tips and tools for healthy cooking with chronic illness.